NEW ULM - The daughter of a former German Prisoner of War who lived at what is now the Flandrau Group Camp during World War II, visited the area with an old friend this week.
Dorrit Dulin of Columbus, Ohio, the daughter of German POW Karl Jonas, met Karen Nau, formerly of the Springfield area, for the first time in person earlier this week at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Jonas, a member of the German Army who was taken prisoner by U.S. forces, worked on the Glendale and Elba Nielsen farm between Springfield and Morgan during World War II.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Dorrit Dulin, left, of Columbus, Ohio, the daughter of a former German Prisoner of War who lived at what is now Flandrau Group Camp, holds information about her father while visiting the camp Wednesday with Karen Nau of Prior Lake, formerly of rural Springfield.
While here, he wrote letters home to his wife and daughter Dorrit, who was age 9 when he left home to go to war.
Dulin said the letters were heavily censored and often amounted to little more than greeting cards.
"I was so young when he left, I really didn't remember him much when he first came home," Dulin said.
Dorrit and her mother lived in Kassel, Germany, an industrial city of 198,000 people that was heavily bombed by the U.S. and Allied forces.
Kassel was the headquarters for Germany's Wehrkreis IX, and a local subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp provided forced labor, ironically.
Much of Dulin's life as a small child was difficult as Germany dug itself from the ruins of WWII.
About 90% of the city center was destroyed by WWII bombs. Some 10,000 died and 150,000 became homeless.
"We were forced to move from our apartment into a bunker in a nearby small village after much of the apartment building was bombed," Dulin said.
"I remember always being hungry and suffered from asthma I think was caused by living in a bunker," she added.
As Germany was rebuilt, Nau and the Nielsens helped Dulin and her parents survive by sending them dried food to eat and old feed sacks that were used to make clothing.
The Nielsens sent cigarettes that were traded for eggs to eat. Three cigarettes could be traded for an egg in post-war Germany.
Against her parent's wishes, Dulin later married an American soldier, immigrated to Columbus, Ohio and became a U.S. Citizen.
All the while, Dulin stayed in contact with Nau and the Nielsens by letter. She never met Nau in person again or visited this area until this week.
"My father was an amateur boxer and operated a printing press before and after WW II," Dulin said. "He helped rebuild the building where he worked after WWII because it was destroyed by bombs."
During the War, about 500 German Prisoners of War passed through New Ulm.
While working in local businesses and farms, they lived at the POW Camp that is now the Flandrau Group Camp, just southwest of New Ulm.
Many of the prisoners at the New Ulm camp worked at the Del Monte Corp. cannery in Sleepy Eye since there was such a need for hand labor at that time, according to the book Swords Into Plowshares/Minnesota's POW Camps During World War II by St. Paul author Dean B. Simmons.
There were 21 POW camps in Minnesota during WWII.
The New Ulm camp was unique since it operated year around.
When canning labor wasn't in demand, prisoners worked at area brick and tile plants and for farmers, according to Simmons' book.
Workers were paid about 80 cents a day, which could be used to buy beer at the camp, the book stated.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.